MIPCOM: Greg Poehler on Following Older Sister Amy Poehler Into TV Comedy

Greg Poehler
Greg Poehler
 

CANNES -- Swedish TV is heading to the U.S.

Greg Poehler earlier teamed with sister Amy Poehler and Sweden's TV4 network to bring the half-hour, English-language comedy series Welcome to Sweden to Sweden's TV4 network via their production shingle Syskon (Swedish for "sibling").

Entertainment One, which is co-producing the comedy based on Greg Poehler's life with Swedish producer FLX, is on the verge of unveiling a U.S. network sale at MIPCOM. Entertainment One is also handling worldwide rights to the sitcom.

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"We believed in the show," Entertainment One Television CEO John Morayniss said Sunday of the fish-out-of-water sitcom about Bruce, an American in Sweden, played by Greg Poehler, who falls in love with a Swedish girl, Emma, played by Josephine Bornebusch (Solsidan).

The series was commissioned by TV4, which was fine by Greg, as he insisted a U.S. network would never have allowed a TV novice like him to assume the lead role.

However, TV4 and eOne did because Morayniss saw a universal theme in an American following his heart to Sweden.

"It's very relatable. At the core, it's still a love story," he said in Cannes as Greg introduced his debut comedy to the international press.

eOne also packaged the series for a U.S. sale by including Amy as an executive producer and lining up cameo roles by Lena Olin as Emma's mother, Viveka, and Illeana Douglas and Patrick Duffy as Bruce's parents.

Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation co-star Aubrey Plaza and Gene Simmons also join Greg Poehler in his acting debut, after he worked as a lawyer for 12 years before attempting stand-up comedy in Sweden.

For younger brother Greg, Welcome to Sweden is in large part following his sister into entertainment, long after she flew the family coop to try her hand at improvisational comedy in Chicago.

That leap followed Amy graduating from Boston College, an education that parents Bill and Eileen Poehler helped underwrite.

Greg recalled that his parents, while supporting Amy as she became an improv comic, didn't want to see him also possibly fret away his college education.

So he became a lawyer.

"While Amy was a struggling waitress, I was a winner," he said of their early career trajectories.

Of course, Amy went on to fame on Saturday Night Live and as the character Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation.

And as she became a celebrity, Greg felt the urge to let his own comic juices flow.

He'd heard friends and family insist he was funny, but cracking one-liners in serious corporate meetings before offering expensive legal advice to jittery clients was hardly a preferred training ground.

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"I was never comfortable in that world and in that suit," Greg said of his years in law.

Of course, being a legal eagle helped him cut down on legal costs when negotiating his deal for Welcome to Sweden.

That said, Greg said he'll get an agent to go to battle on his behalf should the first season of Welcome to Sweden fly with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

"It's hard to negotiate with people you work with and then say, 'No hard feelings,' " he explained.

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